Ports of Indiana grows with new terminal operator, more cargo shipmentsWritten by Heather Ervin
The Ports of Indiana, an inland river port system made up of three ports—Burns Harbor, Jeffersonville, and Mount Vernon—have experienced an uptick in cargo shipments in addition to one port welcoming a new cargo terminal operator.
The new terminal operator, Indiana Cargo Crossroads, is a working partnership of Ports of Indiana and Superior River Terminals Indiana (SRTI). The new general cargo operator began work in Jeffersonville on January 1, providing stevedoring and distribution services to customers. It will grow and diversify cargoes, make investments into facility expansions and drive projects that create significant economic benefits for the regional economy.
The port’s general cargo terminal consists of a 10-acre parcel of land adjacent to the Ohio River, two barge docks, a 131,000-square-foot warehouse, four acres of dock space, outdoor storage areas and 500-foot covered craneway with a 35-ton overhead crane for all weather transloading of commodities between barge, rail, truck and warehouse. The facility has operated near-capacity handling steel products for several years.
“This is a fantastic new partnership in Jeffersonville,” said Vanta Coda II, Ports of Indiana CEO. “We anticipate growth from current and new customers benefiting from our competitive advantages and cost-savings at the port.”
“We are very excited to be the new general cargo operator in Jeffersonville,” said Jonathan Lamb, president of Superior River Terminals Indiana. “It’s a great facility in a dynamic market. We’re looking forward to a long-term partnership with the Ports of Indiana, providing value to businesses in the region and growing the capabilities of and volume through the terminal.”
Jeffersonville’s port is strategically located along the Ohio River with year-round barge connections to the Gulf of Mexico through the Mississippi River, along with direct access to major interstates and multiple rail carriers with onsite local switching. The southeast Indiana port has been one of the fastest growing steel terminals on the Ohio River since opening in 1985.
PORTS OF INDIANA 2021 SHIPMENTS WERE UP 33.6%
The Ports of Indiana handled more than 11.2 million tons of cargo in 2021, resulting in a 33.6% increase from 2020. The past five years’ shipments (2017-2021), including the hard-hit pandemic of 2020, have totaled more than 58.7 million tons, which set a new five-year high for the three ports. (In comparison, the previous five years’ shipments (2012-2016) totaled $49.1 million tons.)
Both Burns Harbor and Jeffersonville achieved its highest shipment totals to date. In the history of Ports of Indiana, more than 259.8 million tons have been shipped using its three ports.
Major cargo increases in 2021 for the Ports of Indiana overall included a rebound in coal (213%), salt (141%), steel (40%), grain (39%), minerals (23%), oils (21%) and limestone (20%). Additional increases included coke and project cargo, such as wind turbines.
“The Ports of Indiana recovered very well after a down pandemic year,” said Coda. “Burns Harbor and Jeffersonville had their best tonnage years ever thanks to our core businesses growing, a steady economy and new shipment opportunities taking advantage of our world-class infrastructure and value-add partners.”
On Lake Michigan, the Ports of Indiana-Burns Harbor handled 3.39 million tons in 2021, up nearly 50% compared to 2020 and reached its highest annual shipment total since it began operation in 1970. (The second-highest year was in 2014.) The past five years’ shipments (2017-2021) totaled 13.77 million tons.
Limestone was up 92% from the previous year. Steel shipments continued to grow by 67% compared to 2020. Project cargo, including wind turbines and mega storage tanks, was down compared to its best year in 2020, but remained well above all other prior years.
“For Burns Harbor, 2021 was ripe for opportunities,” said Port Director Ryan McCoy. “We had several non-scheduled freight shipments that landed at just the right time. Our infrastructure was ready, and we were able to capture new projects. It was a banner year.”
The approximately $20 million Burns Harbor expansion, partly funded by a FASTLANE grant, will continue to be developed over the next few years and include new shipping berths, a truck marshalling yard, 1,200-foot expansion of a cargo dock and a new cargo terminal with multimodal connections for handling cargo transfers between ships, barges, rail cars, and trucks. The construction of two new rail yards has already been completed.
The Ports of Indiana-Jeffersonville on the Ohio River handled 3.22 million tons, up 21.6% compared to 2020 and reached its highest annual shipment total since it began operation in 1985. (The second-highest year was in 2015.) Salt was up (59%) from 2020, while grain was up (49%), adding more than 1 million tons. Steel also increased (21.6%).
A $10 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant initiated substantial changes in Jeffersonville a few years back. The grant provided partial funding for $24 million in infrastructure enhancements that has added nearly four miles to the port’s existing 11-mile rail network. The project will enhance and overhaul the railroad infrastructure and intermodal capabilities throughout the entire port. The project is in the final stages and will officially be completed this spring. The scope included construction of:
- Siding to accommodate unit train delivery to and from the port;
- Waterfront railroad infrastructure including two new rail loops;
- Waterfront intermodal facility that more than doubles the capacity of bulk commodities transferred from rail cars to barges; and
- Rail yard that allows cargo to be transferred between trucks and rail cars.
Also on the Ohio River, the Ports of Indiana-Mount Vernon handled 4.65 million tons, up 32% from 2020. Coal shipments were up 241%, especially in the third and fourth quarters meeting export demand, yet down considerably compared to prior years. Salt (143%), minerals (73%), grain (90%), steel (32%) and fertilizer (21%) were all up in 2021. A large grain crop with strong prices prompted producers to invest in fertilizer, resulting in an increase for both products. A rebound in manufacturing drove steel coil volumes up.